What is the Best Online Business to Start in 2020?

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This is a question I have heard 3,101,637 times over the years.

Give or take.

Especially this time of year; new beginnings, a fresh start, a new decade. People often times ask;

What is the best online busienss to start in 2020?

My thoughts on that question, summed up in an awesome GIF from arguably the greatest movie ever produced, Dumb & Dumber;

I feel that way because it’s an impossible question to answer.

To properly answer that question, I would like to ask you some question like;

  • What do you like doing?
  • What are your strength? Weaknesses?
  • Are you an introvert or extrovert?
  • Are you good at sales? Do you enjoy sales?

These are just some of the questions I’d ask.

Like I said, this is a question I have seen several times over the years, and again, it popped up on Twitter this past week.

I knew, without a shadow of a doubt — I had to sit down and spill my thoughts on this popular topic for all the readers of Total Dads (I appreciate both of you ?)

If you’re not a fan of reading (I despised it till I was about 32), I went ahead and recorded a video for you to watch below;

To the ones who like to read, here we go…

There  are far too many variables, so I am going to share 5 different online business models that anyone can get started with.

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Little Money to Get Started

All these business models do not require thousands and thousands of dollars of capital to start. In fact, most can be started for less than $100.

Money is not needed, however, can drastically speed up the process.

You WILL need;

  • An insane work ethic
  • Discipline
  • Commitment
  • Patience
  • Persistence
  • Unshakable confidence
  • An unwavering belief in yourself

The above are all in your control.

Every online business model works, if you have the seven traits listed above.

After 9+ years of being in the online entrepreneur space, I have found mindset to be the number one thing holding the far majority of people back. Too many struggle with insecurity/lack of confidence, hence why I recently published this blog post: 8 proven tips to boost your confidence.

I have made money with every one of these busienss models.

I have also made a mountain of mistakes with each of these.

A whole lot of sleepless nights, along with blood, sweat, tears and frequent trips to the liquor store.

You ain’t reading about theory here.

My goal with this post is to help you determine the best online business to start for you.

Here are the 5 popular online business models


Technically, these could be separated into their own category, but we’re going to lump them into ‘client work’.

Consulting is typically offering your knowledge and/or expertise to a business. Areas of expertise could include; sales training, marketing, advertising, leadership, productivity, efficiency, management, etc.

Freelancing and agency works is typically providing a service for a busienss. Services such as; copywriting, web design, social media marketing, media buying, etc.

There are a plethora of services you could offer, to a number of different businesses.

You’re going to need a website for this to establish trust, rapport and credibility. I recently published a post with step-by-step instructions (with pictures) on how to start your WordPress blog in under 30 minutes.


Lucrative – Very low overhead, so this can be incredibly profitable. You’re basically selling your time, so there is not much cost involved. Initially, you won’t have employees or an office, as you can do this from home/online.

Even if you build up a team, you can choose to do it virtually to save on the rent/utilizes a typical office would have.

Easy to Start – This is a busienss takes very little capital to start (you can start with nothing, honestly).

Also, you do not have to be the best in the world at anything to offer it as a service. Leverage YOuTube University to learn these skills.

In 2010, I self taught myself web design with YouTube. In fact, I have learned most of my skills via YouTube, blog posts and/or training programs that I purchased online.

You can learn just about any skill with a YouTube and/or Google search.

There is simply no better time to be alive. We should all be so thankful for the opportunity that is in front of all of us (living in the US, at least).

Can Scale Quickly – This is a business that you can build up relatively quickly. It is not uncommon to pick up a handful of clients in your first month, if you’re putting in the damn work!

With client work remember this ONE thing;


They need you, you do NOT need them!

Pound that thought in your head.

Print it of and hang it on your wall as a reminder.

Tattoo it on your forearm.

I don’t care what you do, know that that is an absolute fact.

This is a mindset you have to adopt, no excuses. Far too many marketers are too needy and they wreak of desperation. Potential clients can smell that from a mile away.


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Be Good at Sales – This is not up for debate, and an absolute necessary.

When I got started in 2010, I cold called 5,000+ local Las Vegas businesses offering my web design skills.

I sold TWO websites.

At $297 each!

Hard to make a living with that kind of money (it took 6 weeks)

The reason was because I was absolutely atrocious at sales. The first sign of hesitation, I thanked them for their time and hung up the phone.

This is not a business for introverts. If you’re an introvert, do not consider client work. Not to say it won’t work, but you’re facing an uphill battle from the start. Pick a different business model that fits your personality.

Set Boundaries – This is a difficult one, and one I learned the hard way. Many times.

I would take calls at 9:30 on a Tuesday, or 8:00 am on a Saturday. Or Sunday afternoon. If the client called, I basically stopped life to answer the call.

Back then, I blamed the clients, as that was my mindset (victim mentality) .

Looking back on everything, it was 100% my fault for allowing it, as I did not set boundaries from day 1. If you do not set boundaries, they will cross your invisible boundaries, take advantage of you and you’ll quickly build up resentment towards your client.

This leads to hating life. Learn from me, and set bourdaires from the first day you take on a client.

Not only are you the prize, you’re the one calling the shots. They hired you for your expertise, it’s your job to lead them.

Difficult to Scale – The common trap is once you get a couple of clients, or even your first client, you spend all your time serving this client (s). You slow down (or completely stop) your prospecting.

When you’re doing client work, your prospecting never ends. It’s an ongoing thing, and you cannot take your foot off the pedal.

Once you have 4 – 6 clients, it’s time to start looking to hire help. It’s virtually impossible to work with more than that many clients as a one man band. There are just too many moving parts.

Hiring people is a skill in itself, and I have went through a lot of people over the years. Finding good, trust-worthy talent is not easy, and extremely time consuming.


This could be on just about any topic such as men’s coaching, fitness, health, overcoming divorce, finances, investing, business, etc. This could be one-on-one and/or group coaching. This could be online and/or  offline.

This is another busienss model that will require a website to build your trust, rapport and credibility. Like what I am doing with this site you’re on. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to set up your website in less than 30 minutes.


Lucrative – Like consulting, this can be extremely lucrative, as you’re typically being paid thousands of dollars to work with someone one-on-one. You have very little overhead when getting started.

Easy to Scale – It is impossible to scale one-on-one coaching, as you only have so many hours in the day. However, over the last several years a lot of online marketers have leveraged the power of group coaching. 

This is typically a 6/8/10 online training program where your coaching client will receive a training (recorded) every Monday. On Thursday, it will be an open live Q & A session. The idea is for the student to consume the Monday training, start implementing and come to Thursdays session with any questions. The coach can then answer any/all questions in a group setting, so everyone benefits.

This allows the coach to scale, as they are no longer selling time, as this is a leveraged coaching model.

If I were to do coaching, this would be the only model I would offer.

Can Be Incredibly Rewarding – You can make a significant impact on people’s lives.

Years ago, I coached a young man with his first Shopify store. It was one-on-one coaching and we worked together for 90 days.

It was June of 2016, when he texted me he had quit his job at Solar City because his Shopify store was doing so well.

A day I will never forget.

I re-named a training program of mine, Piss Off, Boss! (Still have the domain)

All the money I’ve made online does not compare to that feeling.

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Limited by Time – If it’s one-on-one, you’re limited to the time in the day.

Extremely Competitive – An easy solution to this is to niche down, and create a category of one.

Far too many online coaches try and serve everybody, and wonder why they struggle.

Be Good at Sales – Similar to consulting, you will need to be good at sales. Coashing is a high value service, so sales is a big part of it.

Coaching is not a good business model for introverts, as there are a lot of interactions with people. You also have to be inspiring, motivating, an excellent listener, empathetic, compassionate, etc.

As you can see, there are not too many cons with coaching (from what I gather). Very likely the reason it’s such a popular online business model.

Digital Courses

Digital products are products that are stored, delivered and used in electronic format.

They are delivered electronically over the internet via email, download or virtually.

There are typically three forms of digital courses;

Written – ebooks, workbooks, worksheets, templates, journals, swipe files, etc.

Audio – Music, podcasts, audio training, meditations, etc.

Video – Webinars, workshops, intensives, online meetings, consults, courses, etc.


Infinitely Scalable – There is no limit to selling courses, as you are not dealing with people one-on-one.

As I wrote above, the files are delivered digitally (instantly), and this is all done automatically, if set up right.

If someone buys a course of yours at 2 am on a Tuesday while you’re sleeping, they’ll receive access information in an email within minutes.

If someone purchases a training of yours on a Saturday when you’re out with your family, again, delivered automatically.

It’s a business model that you could scale up to $50,000 per month with very little help and/or overhead.

Somewhat “Passive” Income – I am not a fan of the word passive income. Most think it’s sitting on the beach and getting paid to do nothing.

It doesn’t quite work like that, in the online world, anyways. If you invest in real estate, it is much more “passive”.

However, there some passive income opportunities in the online world.

A lot of people describe passive income as making money while you sleep. With courses, this certainly is possible.

There are not many things in life that are as great as waking up to new sales (money) in your account. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

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Introvert Friendly – Selling digital courses does not involve talking to people. I would recommend talking to people (market research, for example), but it’s not required.

So if you like behind the computer because you have crippling social anxiety, this might be the route for you.

This is not to say this is not for introverts, as it works extremely well for extroverts.


Content is Difficult to Protect – There are websites out there that offer people’s paid courses for free. They are called blackhat sites, and they are quite difficult to regulate.

I have found my courses on these sites over the years, and very little you can do about it.

About two years ago, I discovered someone selling my Shopify course on eBay.

I quickly messaged my Mom, “Mama, I made it!”

Some people get extremely angry about their courses being given out for free, but it’s wasted energy, in my opinion. It’s going to happen, and damn near impossible to stop.

Now, this is not to say that people are not going to buy, not at all. Most people are unaware of these sites, so it’s really not something to be that concerned about.

Information is Freely Available – All of the information in my paid courses is freely available online…somewhere!


Yes, it’s true. You can find it somewhere, but would likely take months to piece it all together. Inside my courses, it’s laid out in order, in one place. It’s convenient.

A lot of people who sell courses operate this way, as they understand that you can find anything online nowadays. There are no secrets.

Most Won’t Take Action – When you charge $10 for a courses, the far majority (90%+) will not take any action. Some will not even open it or login to the member’s area.

This can be incredibly frustrating as a course creator, as you created it to help others. It’s human nature.

Now, if you’re charging $5,ooo for your program, people are much more likely to take action. They are much more committed, bought in. This also attracts a different caliber of person.

This is the model of the Total Dads website. We are a digital publishing/educational company.

online businesses you can start today1

Affiliate Marketing

This is a business model where you refer someone to purchase a product and/or service, and if they buy, you earn an affiliate commission.

Amazon Associates is their affiliate program, and it’s free to join.

Once a member, you will receive customized links for any product you want to promote. If someone clicks on the link, and purchases something (it could be ANYTHING) within 24 hours of clicking on the link, you would earn money.

Typically, it’s 4 – 10% of the total sale. Amazon has different categories with different percentages they pay out.

Selling a $10 book is not going to net you much money.

However, if you want to purchase this Rolex Cosmograph for $66,500, I would earn roughly $2,660.

Yes, that is my affiliate link.

If you do purchase that watch, I will coach you for the next three months…free of charge!

Also, I would consider naming my next offspring after you.

Then again, I am 38, so it’s likely not going to happen again.


Target, Walmart and Best Buy all have affiliates programs as well.

To find more, just Google: Store name + affiliate

A lot of software companies have affiliates programs that pay a much higher percentage — typically in the 20% – 40% range.

Digital course sellers often times offer affiliate commissions, with most being in the 50% range.

Affiliate marketing in a great way to get started in the online world.

You’re going to need a website to publish your content. I highly recommend WordPress, what this site is built on, and what I’ve been using since I got started in 2010. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to set up your website in under 30 minutes.


Infinitely Scalelable – Like courses, there is no ceiling on this.

You have no customer support/maintenance to deal with.

All you’re doing is sending traffic to an offer/website. I know of a couple guys that do $1000,000 per DAY with this.

That was not a typo, $100,000 a day.

No Experience Needed – You could go sign up for an Amazon Associates account here now and start sharing your link.

Maybe you recently read a book you enjoyed, and want to talk about it — share your link on your social media channels.

Now, to make a decent amount of money, you’re going to need to strategy in place, and not just posting links on your social media channels.

Luckily for you, I recently published a couple videos that you could watch to learn more about this;

How to make $100 a day on Pinterest

How to Make Money on Twitter

No Customer Service – You are not selling anything, so you are not obtaining any customers.

Low Overhead – With that, you do not have any product cost either. To get started, all you really need is a website.

If you’re working a full time job, this is something you could build on the side. Dedicating an hour a day will slowly move the needle.


No Customers – I know this was a pro, and it is, however, it is also a con.

All real businesses the money is made on the backend — meaning the customers who purchase again next week, next month and next year. With affiliate marketing, you do not obtain the customer information, so you cannot follow up with them.

In my opinion, this is the biggest negative with affiliate marketing. However, it can be looked at as the biggest benefit, too.

It really depends on what you’re looking to achieve and the business you want to build.

Low Commissions (with physical products) – Amazon and any other physical product affiliate program is going to be low commission percentages. They all have overhead and cost of goods, so they can only afford to pay you 4% – 10%.

However, I have a friend out here, who has a YouTube channel (about 800k subscribers) and he earns $21,000 a month from Amazon alone. He’s been at it for years, and has an enormous audience that he’s built.

No Control – Any any point, a business could reduce your commission percentage, terminate it’s affiliate program or close it’s doors.

This is something you need to keep in mind, and I always recommend being an affiliate for a number of programs.

Putting your eggs all in one basket, is incredibly risky, and stupid.

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This is selling physical products on your own storefront.

There are plenty of different eCommerce solutions out there such as Shopify, Magento, Woo Commerce & Big Commerce. These platforms give you the opportunity to sell online.


Easy to Scale – In my experience, this was the easiest business for me to scale.

In June of 2015, I launched my first Shopify store slangin’ women’s jewelry. The first month I did about $250 in sales, in July I did about $2,200 and in August, after hiring two assistants, we generated $15,000 in sales.

We ended up doing just over $272,000 in sales in a little less than 14 months.

I had no experience with eCommerce, but did have online marketing experience, which was extremely helpful.

No Experience Required – With the platforms I mentioned above, you could have a very nice looking online storefront up and running over a weekend.

All these platforms offer great looking free store themes to allow you to build something with little, or no, web design experience.

There are a plethora of YouTube videos on how to drive traffic to your website. YOu could learn Facebook/Instgram ads, or learn how to drive free (organic) traffic by blogging and/or leveraging social media.

Open 24/7/365 – Your store is always open — including all holidays and 2 am on a Tuesday.

As you drive more and more traffic to your store, your sales should increase.

Introvert Friendly – You have very little, if any, direct communication with customers (besides email).


Small Margins – When comparing this to digital products, it can be downright depressing.

Cost of Goods (COGs) is going to be your biggest expense with your eCommerce shop. Typical margins are in the 20% – 35% range.

Extremely Competitive – Launching a Shopify store has been a very popular business model since 2015ish.

Some of the many reasons for this is; low barrier to entry, can be scaled up quickly, unlimited potential and the ability to order products from China.

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Wrapping It Up

Like I said, there is no such thing as a “perfect’ busienss model.

You have to find what works for you. What I enjoy might not be something you enjoy, and vice-versa.

I have experience with all of these, and I can say this;

Every online business works, IF you put in the work. 

I recommend Affiliate Marketing, as it’s the most newbie friendly way to start earning money online.

If you would like to learn more about affiliate marketing, I highly recommend checking out my book, Dadpreneur Freedom.

The book reveals how to start earning money with affiliate marketing with ZERO experience!

This is drastically different from anything you’ve read before, as it’s a “fool-proof” guide to start ethically earning money with affiliate marketing.

It’s a guide that shows you exactly what to do, how to do it, and why.

Plus, it’s an easy read.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.